Malaysia’s Najib under fire at UMNO meeting

Asia Sentinel

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Malaysia’s Najib under fire at UMNO meeting


No open rebellion, but Najib faces a rebellion over Malay privilege

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak opened the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) annual general meeting Tuesday, November 25, under siege on his own flanks, partly former from Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, and partly from his own deputy prime minister and party deputy chief Muhyiddin Yassin, who is increasingly openly challenging him.

Given Malay politics, where frontal opposition is rare, the attacks are obtuse and opaque. But the messages from both are clear: that under the party’s current leadership, the ruling Barisan Nasional will lose the next election because the party, the biggest component of the national ruling coalition, is being deserted by ethnic Malays.

The conclave is expected to run through Saturday, November 29, and can be expected to feature the usual fire-breathing attacks on other races and religions – from the dais – if things go as usual. But sources close to Mahathir say this one is also expected to feature rank-and-file efforts to pass a resolution telling Najib he can’t do away with the country’s colonial era sedition laws, as the prime minister has promised.

“That is a blow to the PM, who has pledged to abolish it,” the source said. The divisions won’t take on a growing scandal over the sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Bd., he said, “because it is now a national problem. We don’t expect it to be discussed because most members don’t know what is going on. It’s too complicated.”

1MDB, however, is the elephant in the room to the leadership, a disastrously managed sovereign investment fund which has accumulated debts of RM36 billion, apparently because of a calamitous investment in a Saudi Arabian oil venture in which RM7.2 billion appears to have disappeared altogether. Subsequent attempts to cover the failed investment have driven debt through the roof. Mahathir has assailed the government over the operation of 1MDB, as has Daim and several bloggers who are loyal to Mahathir.

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